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This regularly scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Eli Residential channelEnjoy!

Question: A friend of mine just lost an offer on a house and there were 7 other offers, is the market competitive again?

TL;DR Summary (1:37)

Answer: If you’re letting news outlets, national real estate pundits, and Twitter guide your real estate strategy in the D.C. Metro/Northern Virginia area, you’re likely getting a very different perspective on the real estate market than what we’re seeing locally. Despite 6-8+ months of headwinds, the market did a 180 in the first few weeks of January, compared to the weeks prior (this is a common trend).

Multiple offers, escalations, and limited contingencies have returned to many parts of the market, so this week’s column is chart-heavy to show that the “crash” in the 2nd half of the year was all relative to the breakneck pace of the market in 2021 to mid 2022 and how natural supply/demand economics are keeping the market competitive and prices up, despite how much higher the monthly payments are.

Second Half 2022 was Relatively Bad, Historically Normal

Overall, across the D.C. Metro region, total sales transactions finished the year 3% above the 10-year average. Things seemed a lot worse than they were because of the massive number of sales we experienced in 2021 and 2020.

While prices in most sub-markets did drop from the first to second half of ’22, real estate in the D.C. Metro still appreciated in 2022 above the 10-year average. Even condos, which struggled through the heart of the pandemic, appreciated nicely in 2022.

In Northern Virginia, there’s a clear jump in average prices in Q1/Q2 2022, followed by a very normal drop in average prices for Q3/Q4 (this has more to do with more expensive homes being sold in the spring, not a seasonal drop in home values), but the Q3/Q4 average prices fit nicely within the normal trend line and do not suggest any sort of crash, just a jarring difference from what we experienced in the first half of the year.

Average sale price to original asking price ratios, one of the best demand metrics, fell sharply through December, from all-time highs in the spring. While the speed of the drop shocked the market, it dropped to normal Q4 levels so the “crashing market” feeling was only relative to the extreme demand in early 2022, but not so when compared to historical norms.

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This regularly scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Eli Residential channel. Enjoy!

Question: On social media, I have seen a new loan program advertised called the All in One mortgage. Whom might this program benefit and are there any pitfalls to look out for?

TL;DR Video Summary (3:13)

Answer: With mortgage rates so high, we’re seeing new products or new angles on old products (like the 2-1 Buydown) and lots of mixed information about why rates are high or where rates are likely heading in 2023 and beyond. So in keeping up with my promise to provide relevant, transparent information on the mortgage market, let’s talk about another buzzy product being discussed lately, the All-in-One Mortgage.

It’s a fairly simple product, but cutting through the marketing of it to know if it’s the right product for you isn’t easy.

The rest of this article is a guest column generously written anonymously by a lender at a local bank that offers this product, but wishes to remain anonymous so they could provide an honest review. So enjoy a brutally honest review of a mortgage product that isn’t as great as the marketing makes it seem…

The creators of the AiO claim in their marketing that this loan will pay off a homeowner’s mortgage faster than a traditional mortgage, but we have found this not to be the case and that the AiO may be more expensive than a traditional mortgage, on an apples-to-apples basis.

The goal of this article is to provide a quick overview of this product, as well as discuss which situations the AiO may or may not be a good financial instrument for the purchase or refinance of a home.

Mortgage, Home Equity Line, and Checking Account “All in One”

The All in One (AiO) mortgage combines a mortgage, a home equity line of credit and a checking account, all in one financial instrument. The AiO allows you to purchase a home just like any other mortgage, where you would apply for a pre-approval, shop for a home, and once a home is under contract, the AiO would fund the majority of the home’s purchase price.

In addition, you can deposit your pay into this account, and pay all your bills from this account, just like any other checking or savings account. The account has an ATM card and allows automatic bill pay. Finally, the AiO acts like a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC), allowing you to access your home’s equity should you have such life events as paying for a child’s wedding or building an addition to your home.

Whether this product is a good fit for you depends on your goals and priorities, so the following summarizes how the AiO fits with certain personal and financial goals.

AiO Recalculates Interest Daily, Not Monthly

A traditional mortgage charges interest on the outstanding balance as of the date of the last mortgage payment, and you pay interest on this balance for each day of the month until the next mortgage payment. In contrast, the AiO mortgage calculates interest daily, so if you deposit your paycheck in the account, this immediately reduces the balance on which interest is calculated.

Said differently, if you make an additional payment to principal mid-month, the AiO would calculate interest on the lower balance for the remainder of the month, whereas a traditional mortgage would not. The creators of the AiO mortgage share that this feature saves interest, which it does.

However, the AiO mortgage has a higher starting interest rate than a traditional 30-year fixed mortgage and the AiO does not have a permanently fixed rate of interest, so the interest rate on this product may be higher or lower in the future, as it is market-driven.

Hence, any interest savings due to the AiO paying interest daily can be lost due to the higher initial interest rate and/or increases in the program’s interest rate down the road. This does not mean that the AiO would not save on interest; however, there are many instances when the amount of interest you pay may be higher despite the advantages of daily interest recalculations, so be sure to discuss interest rate risk with your financial advisor.

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This regularly scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist. Enjoy!

Question: We’re moving to Arlington from out of state and have always had at least an acre of land. We’d like at least ½ acre in Arlington, but can’t find much. How big are most lots in Arlington?

TL;DR Video Summary (1:11)

Answer: I talk a lot about making sure the home you want exists before setting your hopes and dreams on finding it. Understanding what lot sizes you can expect to find in Arlington is a great example of that, so this week I’ll share data on lot sizes from homes sales going back to 2019.

The data is based on total square footage of a lot, including the land the home sites on. Most people think about lots in terms of acres, so here’s a quick conversion key:

Arlington Lot Size Highlights (sales since 2019):

  • Average lot = 8,479 SqFt
  • Median lot = 7,277 SqFt
  • Lot with ¼ acre or more is in the top 83% largest lots
  • 4% with ½ acre or more
  • Just six of 4,355 were 1+ acre, none were 2+ acres
  • More homes sold on 1/10th acre or less than ½ acre or more

The chart below shows the percentage of homes sold in Arlington within five different ranges. 69% of homes sit on lots with 5,000-9,999 SqFt.

Drilling down even further, we see that 1,672 of 4,355 lots (38%) were between 6,000 and 7,999 SqFt.

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This regularly scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist. Enjoy!

Question: What are current forecasts for mortgage rates in 2023 and beyond?

Answer: Happy New Year everybody!

A few weeks ago, I posted a “Beyond the Headlines” deep dive with James Baublitz, VP of Capital Markets at First Home Mortgage, into why interest rates have increased so much.

As the calendar turns, many of you will be kicking off your home search and asking about current and forecasted interest rates, so I’ll cover that today, plus a quick note on recent loan limit increases for down payments as low as 3%.

What is a “Normal” Mortgage Rate?

The first thing to understand about mortgage interest rates is that they are market-driven and forecasting comes with the same amount of unpredictability as any other economic/market-based forecasting (GDP, Unemployment, Stocks, etc). Take predictions/forecasts with a grain of salt.

The other truth that is best illustrated by the chart below, which shows the average 30yr fixed mortgage rate since 1971, is that there really is no established “normal” interest rate that we can point to and say “this is what you can expect when markets stabilize.” So, use caution when relying on assumptions about future rates (e.g. for a refi).

Forecasting Future Rates

Most major forecasting organizations including Mortgage Bankers Association, Freddie Mac, and National Association of Realtors (NAR) believe rates will steadily decrease through 2023 and that trend will continue into 2024.

Mortgage Bankers Association expects rates to fall faster than Freddie Mac and NAR, with average 30yr fixed rates hitting mid 5s by the 2nd quarter and low 5s by the end of 2023. They forecast that rates will be in the 4s by Q1/Q2 2024 and believe the long-term stable rate to average 4.4%.

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This regularly scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist. Enjoy!

Question: What were some of the most expensive homes sold this year in the DMV?

Answer: Happy holidays and new year everybody!

It’s always fun to look back at the most expensive homes sold in our nook of the world, so without further ado, let’s take a look at the most expensive homes sold this year in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Note: this includes what is entered into the MLS, it’s certainly possible (likely) that expensive homes have traded hands privately outside of the MLS.

The most expensive home sold this year in all three DMV states is a beautiful 550 acre estate, with a private 18-hole golf course, in Upperville, Virginia that sold for $23.5M! Despite the hefty price tag, it falls well short of the record sales from 2018, 2020, and 2021 that all cleared $40M.

Listing by John Coles, Thomas and Talbot Estate Properties, Inc (1584 Rokeby Rd, Upperville, VA)

Top 5 Most Expensive Sales in Arlington

Listing by Robert Hryniewicki, Washington Fine Properties (3433 N Albemarle St, Arlington, VA)

Arlington’s average and median prices are sky-high, but the area generally likes ultra high-end properties we see elsewhere in the region. Arlington’s most expensive sale this year is a new build in Country Club Hills clocking in at 7,450 SqFt, seven bedrooms, seven full bathrooms, and two half baths. The property sits on an unusually large (for Arlington) .39 acre lot.

Top 5 Most Expensive Sales in Alexandria

Listing by Preston Innerst, EYA Marketing (5 Pioneer Mill #502, Alexandria, VA)

The most expensive sale in Alexandria is a townhouse built in 1800 in Old Town that sits on nearly ¼ acre with over 6,000 SqFt and seven bedrooms. Pictured above is the second priciest sale in Alexandria, a waterfront penthouse condo in Robinson Landing with nearly 2,800 SqFt for $4,509,000.

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This regularly scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist. Enjoy!

Question: We are looking forward to buying a home next year. Do you have any recommendations on how we should start the home buying process?

Answer: If you Google “home buyer tips” or “what to know before buying a home” you’ll find plenty of advice on the topic, so I’ll include some suggestions I don’t usually see online and put my own spin on some of the more common advice.

Weighted Criteria

It’s easy to come up with 3-5 things that are most important to you, so challenge yourself early to come up with a list of 10-15 must-haves and wants. Then, starting with 100 points, allocate points to each criteria based on how important it is to you and you’ll end up with a weighted criteria list to help you focus your search and objectively compare properties.

I encourage couples to complete this exercise individually first, then work together on a combined list. This will put even the best relationships to the test!

If you want to take it to the next level, bring your weighted criteria list with you on showings and score each house based on the points you allocated to it and score each home on a 100-point scale. I often find that buyers who have taken this exercise seriously and are working within a budget are hitting scores in the 70s-80s on their top choice homes.

Length of Ownership

How long you expect to live in your home is one of the most important factors in defining what you prioritize and how you use your budget. You should focus on the following:

  1. Likely length of ownership
  2. Difference in criteria for a 3-5 year house vs a 10-12+ year house
  3. Difference in budget requirements for a 3-5 year house vs a 10-12+ year house

Appreciation is not guaranteed and difficult to predict, but the value of longer ownership periods is undisputed. One way longer ownership adds value is the potential for eliminating one or more real estate transactions over your lifetime, thus the associated costs (fees, taxes, moving expenses, new furniture, etc) and stress that comes with moving.

If you have an opportunity to significantly increase your length of ownership by stretching your budget, you generally should. On the other hand, if your budget or future (e.g. job will move you in a few years) restrict you to housing that’s likely to be suitable for just 3-4 years, it’s generally better to stay under budget.

Influencers (not the Instagram ones)

Family, friends, colleagues… they’re all happy to offer opinions and contribute to your home buying process, but the input can be overwhelming and unproductive if you don’t set boundaries. Try to determine up-front who you want involved in the process and how you’d like them to be involved.

Think about how you’ve made other major decisions in life — what college to attend, what car to buy, where to get married, whether to change jobs — and if you’re the type of person who likes input from your friends and family, you’ll likely do the same when buying a house. Plan ahead with those influencers so their input is productive and comes at the right time (e.g. not when you’re already two weeks into a contract).

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This regularly scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist. Enjoy!

Question: Is there anything other than the increasing Fed Funds Rate that is driving mortgage rates higher?

Answer: This week we continue the effort to get educated on mortgage rates and products so you can be smarter, more informed consumers. Higher mortgage rates are being driven by the increases in the Fed Funds Rate, which is the storyline that commands news headlines, but that’s not the only thing driving your interest rate up.

To learn more about what’s happening beyond the headline news, I interviewed First Home Mortgage’s “market maker” James Baublitz (official title, VP of Capital Markets). Let’s jump right in….

ET: What is your role at First Home Mortgage?

JB: I work as Vice President of Capital Markets for First Home Mortgage Corporation. In this role I oversee the different loan programs we offer to borrowers, the mortgage rates we offer daily and the trading strategy we use to manage risk for the organization. This involves frequent communication with broker/dealers and monitoring market developments both intraday and throughout the year.

ET: Other than the highly covered Fed interest rate increases that have increased the cost of borrowing for everything, what else has caused actual mortgage rates to increase so much?

JB: The Federal Reserve lowered the Fed Funds Rate all the way to a range of 0.00%-0.25% to defend the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since rates were effectively at 0.00% they couldn’t go lower, but the Fed wanted to stabilize the economy further given the unprecedented macroeconomic uncertainty the pandemic caused. So, the Fed reinstated the so-called Quantitative Easing program where the Fed began buying mortgage-backed securities, the bonds backed by the mortgages many of us hold.

Supply and demand — the Fed materially increased demand for mortgage assets so prices went higher which meant rates (which move inverse to price) went much lower. Fast forward to today, the Fed never intended to remain a buyer of MBS in perpetuity and earlier this year they announced they would stop their purchases. As a result, demand decreased significantly and the rates they helped drive dramatically lower increased.

ET: Do you expect the Fed to return to buying mortgages to help bring mortgage rates down and prevent a housing crisis?

JB: It’s important to note that the Fed views their purchases of mortgage assets as an extraordinary measure done in the wake of only the most concerning economic environments. The Fed seeks to implement policies that foster full employment in the economy and a modest rate of inflation – 2% – over the long haul. The Fed does not try to ensure mortgage rates are at a certain threshold, however.

It’s also worth noting that extraordinarily low mortgage rates contribute to inflation in the form of much higher home price appreciation — the general idea being that a buyer might be willing to stretch to pay more than asking prices if their financing costs are low enough. We all certainly saw that in the bidding wars in our local markets the past couple years!

With this in mind, Fed officials have previously pointed to very hot housing markets as a cause for concern and see more normalized housing markets as a good thing. Remember, their concern is price stability, not dramatic increases in home prices.

ET: Mortgage rates generally follow a predictable spread above the 10yr treasury bond, but we’ve seen this spread increase significantly over the last 6 months of rapidly increasing rates, why is that?

JB: Markets don’t like uncertainty, and mortgage markets especially don’t like volatility. Big picture, we’re phasing out of a paradigm where the Fed was the main buyer for mortgage assets to a situation where they are on the sideline. The traditional buyers of mortgage assets — commercial banks, money managers and foreign investors have big shoes to fill when it comes to replacing Federal Reserve buying activity.

The multi-billion-dollar question here is — why? There is no shortage of answers ranging from volatility resulting from the war in Ukraine, to leverage and margin concerns from US money managers, to currency fluctuations in markets like Japan. My two cents, however, is that big changes take time.

We’re moving from an environment where the Fed provided clear signals to market participants that rates were going lower. In the face of all this uncertainty following the Fed’s exit and the macroeconomic events I mentioned the traditional buyers of mortgage assets are being selective and waiting until they have more certainly to buy in bulk.

It’s the same as any of us when we think about investing personally: the wider the range of potential outcomes, the more potential that our return will vary, the higher overall return we will require. In the mortgage market that means rates need to be higher. They have big shoes to fill — depending how you define it; the Fed was buying something on the order of 30-40% of newly issued mortgages. The Fed exiting the mortgage-purchasing business is a big change and like I said, big changes take time.

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This regularly scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist. Enjoy!

Question: How has Arlington’s condo market reacted to higher interest rates?

Answer: In last week’s column, I looked at performance metrics for detached homes in Arlington, shared my thoughts on local pricing behavior, and discussed news about the national vs local real estate market. This week we will look at the underlying performance metrics in Arlington’s robust condo market.

Underlying Arlington Market Performance Data for Condos

Here’s how I approached the data used in this week’s analysis:

  • Low-, mid-, and high-rise condos only
  • Resale data only, no new construction
  • All data is presented by the month a home was listed in so we can measure how home sales performed based on the month they came to market
  • Net Sold = Sold Price less Seller Credits
  • I used data from 2017, 2019, 2021, and 2022 because I think it offers a helpful snapshot of recent Arlington markets to compare 2022 to. 2017 was our last “normal” market because Amazon HQ2 was announced Nov. 2018 and that kicked off a condo craze. 2019 was the first full year with the Amazon bump, but pre-COVID market, and 2021 was a full year of the COVID-driven shift in condo demand.

I either did not use or must caution your interpretation of this year’s August-November data because it is incomplete for purposes of this analysis. There are 13, 26, 39, and 42 condos actively for sale that were listed in August, September, October, and November, respectively, which will influence the performance metrics for those months when they do contract/close and most likely will result in worse performance metrics than those months currently show.

There are only 10 condos still for sale listed January-July that will likely pull down the performance metrics for those months once they contract/close, but not enough for me to be concerned about the resulting data being presented in this analysis.

Business as Usual for Condos

While the detached market was on fire in 2021 and early 2022, the condo market performed mostly along the lines of historical metrics, except for one month, February 2022, when average sold prices climbed slightly above the original asking price. As a result, high interest rates have led to a more modest reversal in pricing behavior over the last six months, compared to the detached market.

The only time in the last 15 years that we’ve seen a real acceleration in condo prices was during 2019 (and pre-COVID 2020) as a result of Amazon’s HQ2 announcement.

Pace of the Condo Market Slightly Below Normal

We had a few months during the peak of the 2022 market where the pace of sales came close to the craziness we experienced in 2019, after Amazon announced HQ2, but average days on market has returned to its normal seasonal trends. As more data rolls in for closings in August-December, I expect the average days on market for the last 3-4 months of 2022 to exceed historical averages, but not by much.

One of my favorite performance metrics is the percentage of homes that sell within 10/30 days. I think it beats average and median days on market for a true understanding of the pace of a market.

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This regularly scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist. Enjoy!

Question: How have you seen the Arlington housing market react to higher interest rates?

Answer: I hope everybody had a fantastic Thanksgiving. The results of last week’s Dark Meat vs White Meat poll were impressive. With 559 votes in as of this morning, only three votes separated white meat as the preferred part of the turkey over dark meat! We may have found the only vote closer than a Georgia Senate Race!

National vs Local Market Expectations

With daily news about the nationwide (and global) housing collapse resulting from parabolic price appreciation followed by parabolic interest rates, I want to use this week’s column to check-in on what we’re seeing locally and remind everybody that what you read in the news is generally going to be the most attention-grabbing data points and that our market is likely to experience a much more modest correction than many other markets nationwide, as we saw during the Great Recession.

My Take on Local Pricing Behavior

I shared some detailed thoughts and observations last month in a column addressing price drops in Arlington and the TL;DR version is that 1) yes prices have dropped relative to their peak this spring, 2) there’s not nearly enough data available locally to say with any statistical confidence how much that drop has been, and 3) my observation was/is that market-wide in Arlington we’ve lost most/all of the appreciation we saw in the first 4-5 months of 2022, but 2021 prices are still mostly holding up.

Keep in mind that in a volatile, low inventory market (current state) pricing is more randomized and case-by-case than it usually is, so you’ll see plenty of individual examples that buck the aggregated trends/assumptions.

Underlying Arlington Market Performance Data for Detached Homes

This week, I thought I’d share some charts of underlying market performance metrics to help illustrate what our market is experiencing. Here’s how I approached the data this week:

  • Detached (single-family) homes only. I’ll probably look at condos next week.
  • Resale data only aka no new construction because performance metrics used in this column for new construction aren’t usually representative of the market.
  • I used data from 2017, 2019, 2021, and 2022 because I think it offers a helpful snapshot of recent Arlington markets to compare 2022 to. 2017 was our last “normal” market because Amazon HQ2 was announced Nov 2018 and that sent data in unusual directions. 2019 was the first full year with the Amazon bump, but pre-COVID market, and 2021 was a full year of COVID frenzy buying with normal seasonal behavior (2020 was totally out of whack on seasonality).
  • All data is presented by the month a home was listed in so we can measure how home sales performed based on the month they came to market instead of the month they closed (closed data is a lagging performance indicator).
  • Net Sold = Sold Price less Seller Credits

**An important caveat to this data is that I either did not use or must caution your interpretation of this year’s September, October, and November data because it is incomplete for purposes of this analysis. There are 15, 22, and 19 homes actively for sale that were listed in September, October, and November, respectively, which will have a significant influence on the performance metrics for those months when they do contract/close and most likely will result in worse performance metrics than those months currently show.

Note there are 2 homes for sale listed in each month May-July and 7 for sale from August that will likely pull down the performance metrics for those months once they contract/close, but not enough for me to be concerned about the resulting data being presented for those months.

Net Sold Price to Original Ask down 9.3% in 6 Months

The average net sold to original ask dropped from a March peak of 105.9% to 96.6% in August. I suspect that once September-November listings close and we can start filling in those fields, we’ll see that number fall further but maybe not significantly because asking prices have started to react to weaker market conditions and many sellers are coming off their expectations for spring 2022 prices.

Of note, this performance metric is coming more in-line with 2017 metrics. I’ll be interested to see if performance metrics stabilize around 2017 numbers, pre-Amazon HQ2, or if they worsen. My guess is that they’ll worsen slightly compared to 2017 through the end of the year and come more into balance in 2023 (pending interest rate movements).

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This regularly scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist. Enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving ARLnow!

On behalf of all ARLnow readers, the Eli Residential Group has donated to the wonderful Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) whose mission is to feed our neighbors in need by providing dignified access to nutritious supplemental groceries. AFAC is a 4-star, top-rated charity on Charity Navigator and is a worthy organization for your holiday giving.

I spend a lot of time on housing data every week, but this week I’d like to address the important question — do ARLnow readers prefer white meat or dark meat turkey on their Thanksgiving plate? AND do you know the data behind your decision?

I’m all dark meat on my Thanksgiving plate, but now that we’ve started to dabble in smoking our turkey, I’ve found white meat slightly more edible. Nevertheless, my vote is firmly dark meat! What say you, ARLnow?

What’s an Ask Eli column without a data table to help us make our decisions? Here are the results of many minutes of research on white meat vs dark meat:

I hope everybody has a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving with family and friends!

If you’d like to discuss buying, selling, investing, or renting, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected].

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column or to discuss buying, selling, renting, or investing, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with RLAH Real Estate, 4040 N Fairfax Dr #10C Arlington VA 22203. (703) 390-9460

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This regularly scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist. Enjoy!

Question: Is it possible to take over a seller’s existing loan if they have a low interest rate?

Answer: Thank you to our Veterans and Active-Duty military for your service.

In keeping up with the theme of last week’s column, addressing popular mortgage product/strategies, and in honor of Veterans Day, this week I’ll cover assumable VA loans.

An assumable loan is a loan that can be transferred from a seller to a buyer, allowing the buyer to maintain the interest rate of the seller’s existing loan rather than accept a market-rate interest rate. This can be valuable in a high-interest rate environment like we’re in now when most homeowners have an interest rate well below current market rates.

To help me provide the best information about assumable VA loans, I reached out to Skip Clasper of Sandy Spring Bank ([email protected]), who I highly recommend for a range of loan products including VA loans, construction/rehab loans, and jumbo loans.

Only Some Loans Are Assumable

VA loans (available to Veterans, service members and surviving spouses), FHA loans, and USDA loans are the only traditional loan products that are assumable. They make up a relatively small percentage of existing home loans in Arlington (likely single-digit percentage of total loans). I’m not aware of any conventional loans that can be assumed.

Key Details about Assuming a VA Loan

There are some important details and caveats to assuming a VA loan that both buyers and sellers need to understand prior to transferring a loan:

  1. Buyers do NOT have to be a Veteran or otherwise qualify for a VA loan to assume a VA Loan.
  2. Sellers can NOT obtain a new VA loan until the previously assumed loan is paid off (or refinanced out of) unless the new buyer is a Veteran and uses their eligibility on the assumed loan.
  3. It is less expensive (closing costs) to assume a loan than to originate a new loan. The VA Funding fee is only 0.5% for assumable VA loans.
  4. You need a down payment that covers the gap between the assumable loan balance and the purchase price. For example, if the seller’s loan balance is $200,000 and the purchase price is $500,000, the buyer is assuming $200,000 is debt and will have to cover the remaining $300,000 via down payment or alternative debt such as a second trust.
  5. Buyers need to qualify for the loan using normal income, debt, and credit guidelines.

As you can probably determine from the above details, there are only a limited number of scenarios where assuming a VA loan makes sense for both parties. The biggest hurdle to VA loan assumption is that the VA loan eligibility stays with the loan so if the buyer does not have their own VA loan eligibility, the seller must be sure they are okay giving up this very valuable benefit until the new buyer pays it off or refinances.

If you’d like to discuss buying, selling, investing, or renting, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected].

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column or to discuss buying, selling, renting, or investing, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with RLAH Real Estate, 4040 N Fairfax Dr #10C Arlington VA 22203. (703) 390-9460

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